India court allows Modi’s BJP to form state government despite lacking majority

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses party supporters during a celebration event in New Delhi on Tuesday, May 15. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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India court allows Modi’s BJP to form state government despite lacking majority

NEW DELHI: A leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was sworn in as chief minister of a key southern Indian state on Thursday, despite lacking a majority, after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid to block the move.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the biggest winner in the Karnataka state election but has fallen short of a majority, sparking a scramble for power between the party and its arch rival Congress.
The Congress party, which lost sole control of the state in Saturday’s election, tried to stop the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa from taking the oath as chief minister by stitching up a last-minute coalition with a smaller regional party.
But the BJP argued that it should get the first chance to form a government as it is the largest party and state governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala gave it 15 days to prove it has a majority, prompting the Congress to go to court.
Following a three-hour hearing that began around midnight, the Supreme Court rejected the Congress claim that it already had a majority by joining hands with the smaller Janata Dal (Secular) party.
The BJP won 104 seats in the 224-member assembly, nine short of a majority. Congress fell to 78 seats from 122 in the previous election. It has offered to support Janata Dal that won 37 seats.
Congress and Janata Dal also claim to have the support of two independents and have accused the BJP of trying to bribe their members to switch sides.
Janata Dal leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said the BJP had offered $15 million each to as many as 32 lawmakers. The BJP denies the claims.
Congress is desperate to cling on to Karnataka, its last major bastion after being defeated in 12 state elections since it lost the national government to Modi in 2014.
Its leader Rahul Gandhi, scion of India’s famed Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has still not won a state election since he took over from his mother Sonia Gandhi last year.
With national elections due next year, state polls are being closely watched by both parties.


Iran funding Taliban to affect US military presence in Afghanistan, say police and lawmakers

Updated 27 May 2018
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Iran funding Taliban to affect US military presence in Afghanistan, say police and lawmakers

  • Police officials and lawmakers accuse Iran of funding and arming Taliban in the country's western parts to increase its strategic influence
  • Farah police, however, dismiss the notion that Iranian interference was in retaliation to the US' withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal this month

KABUL: Afghan government and police officials have accused Iran of providing financial aid and advice to Taliban militants as part of its opposition to the US military presence in Afghanistan.
Mohinbullah Mohin, spokesman for the police of western Farah province, told Arab News on Sunday that Iran’s backing helped the Taliban to conduct a massive onslaught and capture most parts of Farah, which lies near the border with Iran, last week before being flushed out by a US-led Afghan counterattack.
“Iran has been seriously helping the Taliban by providing financial assistance for several years now. It was also involved in the latest incidents (Farah city falling to Taliban),” he told Arab News by phone from Farah.
“Its assistance is for the western region (expanded over several provinces) and the goal is to build its influence and strike a blow to the US (military presence in Afghanistan),” he said.
Earlier the police chief of Farah province, Fazl Ahmad Sherzad, had also claimed that Iran was involved in the May 15 Taliban attack on Farah city and that “they have been directly funding and providing arms to the Taliban as Iran sees Farah as part of its strategic interest.”
This claim was backed by the head of the provincial council of Farah, Farid Bakhtawar, on Wednesday, who claimed that the militant group crossed over from Iran, where it was trained and armed to conduct its attacks.
Some Taliban commanders live in Iran, where they also receive mentoring from Iranian advisers, said Mohib.
Officials at the defense ministry and presidential palace refused to comment about Iran’s role in the latest round of the Afghan war.
However, last week, the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became apparently the first top American official to publicly accuse Iran.
“Iran’s support to the Taliban in the form of weapons and funding leads to further violence and hinders peace and stability for the Afghan people,” Pompeo was cited by media as saying in Washington.
Mohib rejected the speculations that Iran’s aid to the Taliban was in retaliation to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal this month.
Aqa Noor Kentooz, former police chief for Farah province, told Arab News that authorities had found anti-personnel mines with the Taliban with Iran’s marking when he served in Farah a few years ago.
Mohib added that Iran’s discourse with Afghanistan in the west was “over water:” Iran felt that the construction of a water dam by Afghanistan would deprive it of its share of water.
It was not immediately possible to seek a reaction from Iran’s embassy in Kabul.
However, the Taliban spokesman denied that the group had received any assistance from Iran, calling the accusation part of a move by Kabul and Washington to conceal their military setbacks.